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39 review for Re-Enchanting the Forest: Meaningful Ritual in a Secular World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Dowell

    Ayot's book was not devoid of interesting or intuitive points on ritual. Still, its mostly anecdotal format detracted from understanding more about what ritual is and exactly how to set up one's own rituals. I would have especially appreciated how to do more mundane rituals (e.g., creatively setting up a ritual for journaling, daily prayer, etc.) and how these can still succeed in connecting us to a larger, perhaps even natural, context. That being said, there is a more pressing issue that I had Ayot's book was not devoid of interesting or intuitive points on ritual. Still, its mostly anecdotal format detracted from understanding more about what ritual is and exactly how to set up one's own rituals. I would have especially appreciated how to do more mundane rituals (e.g., creatively setting up a ritual for journaling, daily prayer, etc.) and how these can still succeed in connecting us to a larger, perhaps even natural, context. That being said, there is a more pressing issue that I had with the book. This is that Ayot takes an agnostic and eclectic approach to various, complex, religious/philosophical rituals. That is, he does not take a stance on whether there is something beyond the ritual that is "actually there" and so vindicates a particular religious or metaphysical system in which the ritual is in place. He thinks this makes little to no difference as to whether the ritual is meaningful. He also draws from a host of religious traditions to engage in certain rituals. Neither of these assumptions seem quite right. It is odd that these diverse traditions spent centuries (or even millennia in some cases) in insisting that there must be something beyond the ritual, grounding it; it was precisely this belief that drove the community in the ritual and often perplexed those on the outside. That a westerner can arrive and say that such beliefs are superfluous strikes one initially as a bit condescending. But, more than that, it appears to miss something very crucial. What makes these rituals meaningful? If nothing exists that somehow connects us to nature or ourselves in a way that gives us truth and true beauty, how does this not reduce to psychology alone - just something that makes us feel better? But going that route will firstly require much more research about the psychological benefits of ritual. It also must explain why we need to enter into the mindset that such things are true in order for the ritual to work appropriately. Ayot time and again implicitly acknowledges the need to imaginatively enter liminal space with the intention that one wants to communicate with the Other. How do we know there is such an Other? What is the Other and how are we to believe we can see and grasp it in the ritual? How does the nature of the Other shape what rituals we do and what the Other says in ritual? In fact, negatively, in one episode Ayot recounts running through a ritual site only to be rebuked by a genuine believer who stated unequivocally that this is a sacred, ritual space. The separation between one utilizing the ritual for psychological gain and one who is actually a part of it seems to become apparent here. Outsiders can play the ritual game only to a point but moving within that game means knowing the rules and intuitively applying them. Those rules are not learned through rote memorization but are embedded in lived spirituality. Picking up on subtle clues and the right reaction/response in ritual is apparent to the religious adherents who have adopted a worldview for the ritual NON-arbitrarily and can read the ritual situation through the lens of that Weltanschauung. What this highlights is the need to be actually fully immersed within a tradition in order to imbibe in certain practices. This is not to say that someone cannot enter into rituals outside their tradition but only that their tradition should MAKE SENSE of any ritual in which they participate. Such rituals make little sense in Ayot's agnosticism, which is the surprisingly last vestige of modernity that Ayot seems reluctant to abandon. If rituals connect us to some Other and give us insights about the world, this gives us more reason to believe that secularism is woefully inadequate to explain our experience. What we cannot really do is stand outside all traditions and simply pick and choose what we feel makes some kind of deep connection. In doing so, we risk hurting ourselves and others as well as losing many more robust connections that ritual affords. Without the framework to reasonably interpret the results of our practice, our hopes that ritual does something also amounts to little more than armchair psychological guesswork. What this book did give me is a greater longing for ritual in my life and a deeper appreciation for my own tradition and its rituals. Ayot is correct in assessing the need and cry for more ritual - for something far older, primitive and satisfying, something that is both intuitive and earthy. A better book would have tried to go farther in establishing why ritual is so captivating and how we can construct our own rituals or partake in those that seem promising. This would be to delve into a tradition which combines ritual and reason by giving us cause to think the tradition is true and thus breaks the spell of any potential illusions in ritual.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hans

    Loved loved loved this book. Took my time with this one. Savored it page by page reading it slowly so I had time to reflect on it because I honestly believe the subject matter is of crucial importance. As humans, we're still just barely figuring out consciously all the many facets that compose our social-oriented minds. One aspect that is not fully appreciated is that the unconscious part of our minds still communicates in imagery and symbols hence dreams. To the conscious mind this imagery and Loved loved loved this book. Took my time with this one. Savored it page by page reading it slowly so I had time to reflect on it because I honestly believe the subject matter is of crucial importance. As humans, we're still just barely figuring out consciously all the many facets that compose our social-oriented minds. One aspect that is not fully appreciated is that the unconscious part of our minds still communicates in imagery and symbols hence dreams. To the conscious mind this imagery and symbolism can appear intimidating, but what if it wasn't as complicated as we are led to believe. What if it is a language that can not only be learned but one that can be mastered and spoken to. Moving ritual is more than art it is the very language of the unconscious, it bypasses the rational part of our minds and communicates directly with that deeper, emotional and primal center of our being. For eons ritual was a crucial aspect of every humans life as it helped them have psychological mile markers guiding them towards maturity and grounding in the presence of their situation in life. Ritual apparently has tremendous power for healing. In ages past it was one of the primary means humans used for overcoming trauma. Recent research is beginning to support this and find that 'communities' and belonging are instrumental in recovery and healing. Rituals of cleansing, of acceptance, of support all enable and create the space for the suffering individual to contextualize their pain into a larger group narrative of love and comradery. It hurts to think how much beneficial ritual has either been ruined or completely thrown away to the detriment of those who stand to benefit the most from it. The skeptic will always struggle with accepting ritual as anything more than superstition until there's empirical evidence by which time they will have wasted most of their life away in desperate cynicism. Anyone who dreams, who sense and feels connected to and through art to something deeper will appreciate just how truly potent ritual can be and where it fits. This author succinctly ties it all together. Ritual is advanced story telling of the high-magnitude, the unconscious, the seat and root of our being as well as our hurt and trauma.

  3. 4 out of 5

    T.L. Merrybard

    Really loved reading this book! I learned a lot about ritual and what makes it work, and particularly enjoyed it because of the heart that was so evident in this writing. William Ayot is a poet indeed, even when writing prose!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Sadler

    Stunning book. Beautifully written. William takes the reader on a real journey, showing his own vulnerability and compassion. You learn about rituals, both every day and the larger ones. This is a really important read for anyone interested in humanity. Authentic and real, this book should definitely be on your list to read. I have also read all of his poetry books (three to date) and love them all too - so I advise readers to seek those out. William is a superb writer, clear, lucid, compelling Stunning book. Beautifully written. William takes the reader on a real journey, showing his own vulnerability and compassion. You learn about rituals, both every day and the larger ones. This is a really important read for anyone interested in humanity. Authentic and real, this book should definitely be on your list to read. I have also read all of his poetry books (three to date) and love them all too - so I advise readers to seek those out. William is a superb writer, clear, lucid, compelling and permission giving.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Julie

  6. 5 out of 5

    Corey

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    Mateosyew

  8. 4 out of 5

    Donna

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dale

  10. 4 out of 5

    Folkjokeopus

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brewer

  12. 5 out of 5

    Iceberg

  13. 4 out of 5

    Corey

  14. 5 out of 5

    D

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gareth Fakhry

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    Joeri Kabalt

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    John Schwirtz

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    Amelia Raines

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    Mason

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    Liz

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    Simone Silver

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    Zane Cooper

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    Katy Sisko

  31. 4 out of 5

    Gina Farr

  32. 4 out of 5

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  34. 4 out of 5

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  35. 4 out of 5

    Karyme Avalos

  36. 5 out of 5

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  37. 5 out of 5

    Monika

  38. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

  39. 5 out of 5

    Sara

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